Treating ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer
Targeting genomic alterations, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene rearrangements, have radically changed the treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). In the case of ALK-rearranged gene, subsequent rapid development of effective genotype-directed therapies with ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) triggered major advances in the personalized molecularly based approach of NSCLC. Crizotinib was the first-in-class ALK TKI with proven superiority over standard platinum-based chemotherapy for the 1st-line therapy of ALK-rearranged NSCLC patients. However, the acquired resistance to crizotinib and its diminished efficacy to the central nervous system (CNS) relapse led to the development of several novel ALK inhibitors, more potent and with different selectivity compared to crizotinib. To date, four ALK TKIs, crizotinib, ceritinib, alectinib and brigatinib have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and even more agents are currently under investigation for the treatment of ALK-rearranged NSCLC. However, the optimal frontline approach and the exact sequence of ALK inhibitors are still under consideration. Recently announced results of phase III trials recognized higher efficacy of alectinib compared to crizotinib in first-line setting, even in patients with CNS involvement. In this review, we will discuss the current knowledge regarding the biology of the ALK-positive NSCLC, the available therapeutic inhibitors and we will focus on the raised issues from their use in clinical practise.